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Life-saving dialysis care expanding in Fort McMurray

PHOTO. The Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, pictured Summer 2019. MYMCMURRAY/Melanie Walsh

The Northern Lights Regional Health Centre has extended the hours of operation of its hemodialysis units.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) said the expansion should bring care closer to home for up to six dialysis patients in Wood Buffalo.

Nicole Veronovici, Executive Director for Alberta Kidney Care North, said similar dialysis access is also going to the community of St. Paul.

“Having closer access to dialysis treatment gives people back time they would have spent travelling that they can use to rest, to work and to enjoy the things that matter to them.”

The new hours came into effect on Jan. 2, 2023.

MLA Tany Yao called this welcome news for residents in Wood Buffalo who require dialysis treatment.

“I thank Alberta Health Services and all the staff involved for working to ensure fewer patients have to travel away from family and home to receive this life-saving care.”

AHS considered several factors when increasing dialysis hours for the region:

  • The number of patients on the wait-list (with the understanding these wait-lists generally have a small number of patients and frequently fluctuates). 
  • The number of current hemodialysis patients.  
  • Any expected changes for existing patients. 
  • The number of patients in a community who are expected to require dialysis in the near future.


Amie Sawchuk is the unit manager for dialysis locations in Fort McMurray and St. Paul.

She said the amount of space and community support for increased dialysis spots were also considered in the decision by AHS.

“It’s terrific to be able to welcome more people into regular hemodialysis spots in these communities. Dialysis treatments take several hours each and happen a few times each week. Patients love the convenience of being closer to home. Some also benefit from the supportive connections they form with the people who share their regular treatment times.”

Within the last year, Grande Prairie became the home to a peritoneal dialysis unit, and a new dialysis unit was opened in High Prairie.